Former football stars tackle online hate in Belfast ahead of UEFA Super Cup

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Managers Glen Hoddle and Joe Cole at The BT Hope United game involving teenagers from Northern Ireland. Photo by Pacemaker

Champions League winner Chelsea will face Manchester United’s Europa League winner Villarreal in tomorrow night’s showpiece.

Windsor Park will be at 70% capacity, which will mean 13,000 spectators – the largest attendance at a sporting event in the province since the lockdown went into effect in March 2020.

IFA President Patrick Nelson said the game would be great publicity for Northern Ireland: “It’s the start of the season as far as UEFA is concerned. for us.

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BT’s Hope United and the UEFA Foundation for Children kicked off a game at Crusaders FC Seaview today on the eve of the Super Cup to raise awareness of the devastating impact of hate online in sport and youth. Pictured are Eni Aluko, Glenn Hoddle, Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole with Kenny Ximenes, Sean Moore, Zenho Granadeiro (center), Ryan Kerr and Sam Glenfield. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Former Chelsea star Joe Cole, who is in Northern Ireland in his role of BT Sport, said Belfast was a beautiful city and a suitable host for the occasion.

The midfielder, who has been selected 56 times for England, said he has fond memories of his time at NI: “I have played football here a few times. With BT Sport we made a documentary about George Best, so I went to Cregagh Road where he grew up, we also went to the parliament in Stormont.

“I would love to have Giant’s Causeway this time around if our schedule allows. “

During the visit, Joe, along with former England, Spurs and Chelsea star Glenn Hoddle, took on the coaching roles of two youth teams from community projects across Northern Ireland as part of BT Sport’s Hope United – a campaign to end hate online. .

Rio Ferdinand with Niamh Coyle and Zenho Granadeiro. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

A quick online search for “Joe Cole Northern Ireland” reveals footage of Joe Cole scoring and then passionately celebrating a West Ham Under-14 goal at the Milk Cup: “That’s what it means to me. . It’s the same as playing pro, even if I play now, the competitiveness would still be there.

Ahead of the game between Chelsea and Villareal, he said: “It’s a spectacle this game – it’s a real occasion, an event that takes place in a beautiful city.”

Looking beyond the game into the coming season for Chelsea, he said: “I think Lukaku is the last piece of the puzzle. I don’t think he’ll play here in Belfast, but he’s a great recruit.

Joe was signed for Chelsea by Claudio Ranieri, who came incredibly close to winning the title with Chelsea. It was in Leicester that Ranieri finally won the Premier League in the memorable 2015/16 season.

The 39-year-old said: “I was so happy for him. He’s such a nice guy. What he did in Leicester will be remembered. He laid the groundwork for greater success.

Joe was the manager of one of the Northern Ireland youth teams who played in a game today at Crusaders FC’s Seaview Home to raise awareness among young people about the impact of online hate in sport.

The other boss, Glenn Hoddle, said the last time he was in Northern Ireland he was playing for England at Windsor Park, possibly in 1983.

He said his son-in-law is from Belfast and his daughter comes regularly.

Glenn said: “I haven’t been in a long time but it’s nice to be back. The Irish are just lovely, whether in the South or the North – they are the cutest people in the world.

Glenn, a former Chelsea player / manager predicted the London team would win tomorrow night, but said the game was just as important as a training exercise: “The result is always important, the players want to win, but this is not the end and end everything.

“With the head of my manager, it is about form, foundations and physical form. You keep your fingers crossed and hope you don’t seriously injure yourself.

Looking ahead to the coming season, the 63-year-old predicted Man City would win the league again with Chelsea as the closest challenger.

Children will carry the United Against Hate banner

Tomorrow’s UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Villarreal will use the opening ceremony to raise awareness of online hatred in sport and among young people.

During the pre-match ceremony, children selected by the Irish FA Foundation and the Rio Ferdinand Foundation will carry a Unite Against Hate banner and read a message of hope promoting respect and solidarity online.

England and Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand said: “My work, both on and off the pitch, has taught me that there is no hiding place against abuse. social networks.

“Passions run high at major football tournaments and having seen firsthand the devastating effect that can result from hate online, it is more important than ever that the sport unites to fight it.”

Another BT expert, Joe Cole, said: “It is important that we use our platform as a broadcaster and also as footballers in the media to do this.

“Online sometimes brings out the worst in our nature, but let’s turn it around. If you can spread hate, you can spread love and appreciation just as easily.

“It’s a new era with this technology, we need to use it mindfully and better. “

Glenn Hoddle, who is also part of the BT Sport Super Cup squad, said: “It won’t happen overnight. It’s a minority of people, but eventually they have to be educated.

“One day hope will triumph over hate, we must continue to snack and everyone will be on the same page. Events like this will do it.

Eniola and Niamh: online abuse is not acceptable

BT Sport presenter and former England player Eniola Aluko was in Seaview today to give some advice to young players participating in the BT Hope United game to fight online hate.

She said, “For me it’s really about controlling your social media consumption until we get to a point where people are more responsible for what they do and what they say about. social media.

“I deleted Twitter about a month ago now and have never felt better. I don’t see negativity, I don’t feel negative energy. There are times when I’ve been abused on social media and can’t sleep, can’t eat – it’s not worth it. So I deleted it and now I feel a lot healthier for it.

She said: “It’s really important that we put in place tools and an understanding of how to behave on social media. Part of that is the responsibility so that people think twice about what they post, think about the consequences. If you go out on the streets and speak ill of people, you could be arrested, but you can do so anonymously online.

“I love events, organizations and campaigns like this because I think you really bring people from all walks of life together, setting aside divisions and conflicts. It’s not just racism, there is bigotry, there is sexism, there is anti-Semitism, there is homophobia. All of this is really important for us to eradicate.

“If we can make sure we’re against that message through football, it’s so important. I always want to be a part of these things. As a black woman, football has allowed me to meet people I would never have met before. That’s the power of football.

Hope United, a campaign launched by BT, brings together a diverse team of footballers from across the UK to drive change by giving people digital skills on how to protect themselves and others online.

The match at Seaview yesterday involved young people aged 14 to 17 from community projects across NI that are helping to bridge the sectarian divide and care for the refugees who have settled here.

Hosted by the Irish FA, the match was treated as a professional match, presented by Eniola with Rio Ferdinand, with Darren Fletcher and Steve McManaman in the comments booth. The match is featured in a Hope United documentary that will air ahead of the Super Cup.

Niamh Coyle, 16, who played in the game, said: “I have friends who have experienced abuse and I have helped them overcome it, making sure they know that online abuse is not happening. are not acceptable and continue to play football. Playing this game was really special for me and I hope I can someday reach my goal of playing for the Northern Ireland women’s team.

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